20 Nov 2012

The Gingerbread House

I have been fascinated by the "witch's house" in Hansel and Gretel since I was a child. I remembered my mum telling me the story of that house made of chocolate and sweets and I wished I were a third  sibling, the one who would change the story. I don't remember how exactly I wanted to change the fairy tale but I am sure that it involved eating a lot of chocolate and running away before the witch’s arrival ;) 

Therefore gingerbread houses reminds me childhood and I have been researching their origins and how to build them. 

According to Wikipedia, Gingerbread was brought to Europe in 992 by an Armenian  monk who came to live in France. During the 13th century, it was brought to Sweden by German immigrants. It was the custom to bake white biscuits and paint them as window decorations. 

Gingerbread biscuits started to be traded during the 16th century, where they were sold in monasteries, pharmacies and town square farmers' markets. One hundred years later the town of Market Drayton in Shropvile, UK in became known for its gingerbread, as is proudly displayed on their town's welcome sign. 

Gingerbread became widely available in the 18th century. In Brazil it is called pão de mel (honey bread) and is a type of cake usually coated with chocolate. In Switzerland, the gingerbread has a marzipan filling and is known as "biber”(my children love it!).  It is very typical in St Gallen and Appenzell. The St Gallen biber is adorned with the St. Gallen cathedral while the Appenzell biber is engraved with the Appenzell bear. 

In Germany there are two forms of ginger bread: a soft cake called Lebkuchen and a harder form. This latter is the dough used to build gingerbread houses and they are really inspired in the witch’s house from the German fairy tale Hansel and Gretel. Children and parents build them often in Christmas time. 

I know that nowadays you can buy gingerbread houses everywhere but I think the joy is really in the making it yourself. If you fancy it, have a look: in English or in German.

13 Nov 2012

How To Choose And Wash Cashmere

In winter, cashmere is my best friend. Its fine and soft texture keeps you warm and it doesn't itch.  By the way, if  you choose cashmere of the best quality,  it will last for a long time. 

Natural Fibres Direct

Cashmere is a fibre obtained from a cashmere or another type of goats. A cashmere sweater used to be very expensive but since China has become the largest producer of raw cashmere, you can find sweaters under £100.00. However, the quality of mass produced cashmere cannot be compared with fine Scottish cashmere (the softness of the water in Scotland makes the fibre specially soft). 

Malford of London

To choose the right cashmere you should trust your hands and feel the smoothness of the material. Sometimes, you can find the best quality cashmere sweaters in second-hand shops. 

Jo McGivern

It is important also to learn how to wash this delicate fabric. Wash it by hand using lukewarm water and a very mild soap. Do not wring or twist the material as it will lose its original shape. To dry cashmere, gently squeeze out excess water. Instead of hanging it, lay the item out on a clean towel, adjusting it to its original shape, and roll the towel up, with the cashmere in the middle. Take another towel and lay the item flat to finish air-drying. Fold and lay your cashmere piece flat in a drawer until ready to use. 

By Anna Bilton

Dry cleaning is ok but it is not so good for the fibre. Be aware of moths, they love cashmere as much as humans do! Therefore, lavender or cedar wood balls in your drawers are more than convenient.